An international team of researchers, including Moroccan scientists, unveiled the effects of movement among multicellular organisms dating back approximately 539 million years, in the Anti-Atlas.
The discovery marks a pivotal moment in Morocco’s scientific landscape, shedding light on invertebrate organisms that existed hundreds of millions of years ago.
According to a press statement released about the unprecedented find, the discovery contributes to recognising the initial biological indicators specific to the transitional boundaries between the Ediacaran and Cambrian eras. These epochs signified a turning point witnessing a surge in life forms and the proliferation of multicellular organisms.
Moroccan researchers from Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh were instrumental contributors to this landmark discovery. The findings were unveiled in the esteemed scientific journal “Precambrian Research,” which emphasized the scarcity of documented evidence regarding the emergence of these organisms during the Cambrian period.
Until now, the most extensively studied sites have primarily been situated in Canada, China, Australia, and a solitary African site in Namibia.
The Western Anti-Atlas chain, housing unaltered marine sedimentary layers spanning the Ediacaran and Cambrian eras, revealed significant evidence of ancient organismal activity. These sedimentary layers contain distinct horizontal and vertical traces, serving as testimony to the movement and presence of multicellular organisms such as worms and organisms resembling sea anemones.
Referred to scientifically as Conichnus, Planolites, Palaeophycus, Gordia, Helminthoidichnites, Monomorphichnus, Treptichnids, these relics stand as enduring evidence of organisms capable of mobility and burrowing within sedimentary deposits.
The study involved meticulous carbon-13 isotope analyses conducted on layers deposited between the Ediacaran and Cambrian periods in the same locations. The resulting data aligns consistently with findings from other global sites.
Abdel Fattah Azizi, a research professor at Cadi Ayyad University and the study team’s lead, emphasized the significance of this discovery in completing the Earth’s life history within Morocco.
He noted that the research area in Taroudant, southern Morocco, played a pivotal role in bridging the gaps in Morocco’s stratigraphic records, encapsulating the planet’s entire evolutionary journey from primitive single-celled life in the Precambrian to human emergence in the Quaternary era.
Azizi highlighted that this discovery, situated in the Taroudant area, stands as the second significant site on the African continent, following Namibia’s region in South Africa.
The extensive research, spanning from 2018 to 2020, led to the evaluation and study of the unearthed relics before their official announcement in 2023. Azizi emphasized that these findings are preliminary and pave the way for further investigations into the environmental conditions nurturing these ancient life forms, aiming to unravel the mysteries of life’s origin and development on Earth.
With the discovered samples housed in the laboratory of Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh, efforts are underway to secure and protect these antiquities from damage. Azizi concluded by mentioning ongoing research endeavors aimed at exploring additional effects, promising further revelations in the near future.